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Author Archives: Joe Hennes

January 29, 2014

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Remembering Pete Seeger

By Joe Hennes


Folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger has passed away this week at the age of 94.  While he was regarded as a pioneer of folk music, having written classics like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “If I Had a Hammer,” he will also be remembered for his many appearances in the early years of Sesame Street.

His first appearance was in the first season, in which he sang several songs like “Skip to my Lou” and “John Henry.”  Through the next six years, Seeger would periodically show up on the street with his banjo to perform more songs for the kids.  In one case, his car broke down near Sesame Street, so rather than call AAA, he took it as an opportunity to make more music.

In 1974, Seeger was joined by Frederic Douglass Kirkpatrick for “Pete Seeger & Brother Kirk Visit Sesame Street,” an album featuring traditional and contemporary folk songs, accompanied by Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

Pete Seeger returned to Sesame Street in the late 1980s for a very brief cameo in a very memorable video.  He joined such legends as Paul Simon, Madeline Kahn, and John Candy in the classic “Put Down the Duckie.”

In 2009, Oscar the Grouch returned the favor by appearing at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, singing Seeger’s song “Garbage”.

Pete Seeger had a strong connection to Sesame Street’s long history, and he was responsible for introducing many children to the joy of folk music.  We are proud to count him among the celebrities who helped make Sesame Street the show that it is today.

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May 24, 2013

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Herry Me!

By Joe Hennes


We have some die-hard fans of Arrested Development here in the Sesame Workshop offices, so we’re incredibly excited about the show’s return this weekend.  Our infatuation makes a lot of sense, since Tobias shares our love of blue things, Bert and Ernie know all about the Banana Stand, and everyone knows that what comes first is family (unless you’re talking about the things you eat, then it’s breakfast).

The connections between both shows don’t end there.  Several cast members from Arrested Development have ridden the stair car to Sesame Street.  The clearest connection is Will Arnett, who plays GOB Bluth, when he appeared on Sesame Street as Max the Magician.  He’s a natural, since GOB is known for his magic tricks (sorry, “illusions”).  GOB and Max even use similar-sounding theme songs.  They’re also not very good magicians.  Of course, the Sesame gang figures out Max’s illusions pretty quickly, which might threaten his membership in the Magicians Alliance.

Jason Bateman, who plays Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, brought his signature snark to Sesame Street to help explain the word “comfort”.  Getting cooperation from a penguin, a squirrel, and Elmo isn’t nearly as tough as wrangling the members of the Bluth family, but the end result is still just as satisfying.

 

Ron Howard, who serves as Arrested Development’s narrator and Executive Producer, and Henry Winkler, who plays the Bluth family lawyer Barry Zuckercorn, have been working together since their time on Happy Days as Richie Cunningham and the Fonz.  Richie and Fonzie appeared together on Sesame Street to teach body parts, on and off (with the help of Fonz’s trademark jab at the jukebox), and the letter “Ayyyyyy!”  He’s very good.

Several recurring actors on Arrested Development have popped up on Sesame Street over the years, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played blind District Attorney Maggie Lizer, when she portrayed TV reporter Kathie Lee Kathie in the Sesame Street’s All-Star 25th Birthday special.  Amy Poehler, who played GOB’s nameless wife, taught Elmo the word “challenge” in a Word on the Street segment.  Dave Thomas, who made for a very threatening British man, played a slightly less threatening carnival owner in Sesame Street’s first feature film Follow That Bird.

And that’s not all!  Arrested Development had their fair share of celebrity cameos, like Andy Samberg, Andy Richter, Ben Stiller, Richard Belzer, and Martin Short, all of whom have appeared on Sesame Street, in Sesame Street specials, and in exclusive videos made for the Sesame Street YouTube channel.  The fact that these two shows have so many connections is as Ann as the nose on plain’s face.

So as you watch the fourth season of Arrested Development, keep an eye out for more Sesame Street connections wherever they’re hiding.  They could be in a chicken dance, in an ice cream sandwich, or even a puppet named Franklin.

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May 03, 2013

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The Longest Street in the Galaxy: Star Wars on Sesame Street

By Joe Hennes


Joe Hennes works at Sesame Workshop and is the co-proprietor of Tough Pigs.

The 4th of May has become an unofficial holiday for fans of the Star Wars films.  While the date seems arbitrary, it’s a day when we can all break out the pun, “May the Fourth be with you”.  A play on words like that absolutely deserves its own holiday.

But why, you may be asking, is the Sesame Workshop blog writing about Star Wars? That’s a perfectly good question, and much easier to answer than “What’s a Midichlorian?”  You might be surprised to learn that R2-D2 and C-3PO traveled from their galaxy far, far away to visit the most famous street in the world (or perhaps the universe??). Read More

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April 24, 2013

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Wonder Child: Richie Havens on Sesame Street

By Joe Hennes


Joe Hennes works at Sesame Workshop and is the co-proprietor of Tough Pigs.

Folk singer-songwriter Richie Havens passed away this week at the age of 72. In 1969, he brought his unique voice and rhythmic guitar style to Woodstock, where he performed as the festival’s opening act. And in 1975, Havens brought the same raw talent and enthusiasm to Sesame Street.

Richie Havens was brought into the studio to record four songs for the sixth season of Sesame Street, all of which were captured in one day of filming. His best known contribution was “Wonder Child”, a beautiful tune celebrating imagination and the innocence of youth. Read More

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April 08, 2013

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What Ever Happened to Don Music?

By Joe Hennes


Joe Hennes works at Sesame Workshop and is the co-proprietor of Tough Pigs.

Over the course of Sesame Street’s 43-year history, characters come and go.  Not everyone can be a Grover or Cookie Monster, lasting decades while still staying fresh and entertaining.  For every Big Bird, there’s a Roosevelt Franklin.  For every Bert and Ernie, there’s a Biff and Sully.  Despite the fact that these characters aren’t around anymore, we still hold a lot of love for them and the joy they gave us over the years.

One of our favorite examples is the great Don Music, the absent-minded composer who fought through his frustration to pen such classics as “Mary Had a Bicycle” and “Drive, Drive, Drive your Car”.  He showed us that creating art isn’t easy, and the final result isn’t always what you expected it to be. Read More

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February 25, 2013

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The History of Academy Award Winners on Sesame Street

By Joe Hennes


Over 43 seasons, Sesame Street has featured hundreds and hundreds of famous actors.  Due to the law of averages, a certain percent of those actors will have gone on to receive a coveted Academy Award statuette.  And it seems that those averages are correct, because a lot of Sesame’s famous friends have an Oscar on their mantle.

Just last night, at the 85th annual Academy Awards, Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance of Fantine in Les Miserables. Hathaway stopped by Sesame Street a few years ago to sing “I Want a Snuffy for Christmas” with her pal Big Bird. Now you can add her to the long list of Oscar winners who count Big Bird and the rest of the Sesame Streetgang among their friends. Read More

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